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Classical Music


Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade Lowest new price: $8.34
Lowest used price: $4.21
Brand: Rca
Model: 2195007


This is a classic recording of these two works, led with grand authority by Fritz Reiner. The Chicago's brass and wind section play gloriously throughout, and the final movement of Scheherazade (we learn from the original producer [1960] in an accompanying essay) was recorded in one take--an almost unheard-of feat. This fast movement is taken at breakneck speed, with no loss of clarity or power, with the strings in the hands of magicians. Stravinsky's Nightingale has never sounded so exotic, so bristling over with color, since this 1956(!) recording under Reiner, and the wonderful surprise with this new release of old material is the revamped sound: the original "Living Stereo" was a fantastic breakthrough in recording, and this new SACD format has returned the spatial relationships to something so "real" that it comes as close as I've ever heard to a true concert hall experience. Simply glorious. --Robert Levine


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Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) / The Firebird / Jeu de cartes / Petrouchka / Pulcinella

Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) / The Firebird / Jeu de cartes / Petrouchka / Pulcinella Lowest new price: $10.17
Lowest used price: $2.63
Brand: CD
Model: 1991118


This is an excellent Stravinsky collection on all counts. Claudio Abbado's recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra represent the high-water mark of his career, and DG captured the partnership in generally fine sound. This recording of the complete Pulcinella, with the songs included, set an entirely new standard for the work, and its excellence has worn very well in the couple of decades since its initial release. The performance of Jeu de Cartes (Card Game) also should win many new friends for this entertaining late work. As to the Big Three ballets, all of them were among the most recommendable versions when they first came out, and they still are. --David Hurwitz

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Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: Petrushka / Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: Petrushka / Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) Lowest used price: $5.99

Whatever the limitations of Stravinsky's baton technique, no one else on disc conjures the same bustling excitement at the outset of Petrouchka. Overlapping, polyrhythmic textures in Petrouchka and in Le Sacre du Printemps come off with Mozartian lucidity, Mendelssonian lightness, and, well, Stravinsky-esque rhythmic exactitude (notwithstanding a few hesitant entrances). The clarity partly stems from the composer's use of his leaner revised scores, helped by close-up, analytical mike work by CBS. There are, of course, slicker, more sonically opulent versions of these 20th century landmarks. And then there are Stravinsky's. --Jed Distler

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Greatest Hits 2

Greatest Hits 2 Lowest new price: $71.95
Lowest used price: $11.93

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A to Z of Classical Music (3rd Extended Edition)

A to Z of Classical Music (3rd Extended Edition) Lowest new price: $18.12
Lowest used price: $3.37
Brand: Naxos
Model: 8555319-20

Keith Anderson's comp is a model of efficiency, packing 2 CDs and a 930-page book into a box and providing a code and password to stream and download more than 15 hours of additional music! As thick as the book is, it's small enough to take with you, offering a brief overview of the lives and works of hundreds of composers. On the CDs: selections from Brahms' Symphony No. 3 , Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 ; Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique ; Wagner's Tristan and Isolde ; Stravinsky's Petrushka , plus Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Verdi, Vivaldi and more!

Is it a two-CD set with a particularly thick booklet, or a 562-page book with a compilation album attached? Either way, the unpretentious text by Keith Anderson offers an introduction to the lives and works of dozens of composers, together with recommended recordings from the Naxos and Marco Polo catalogs. Anderson includes a useful 59-page glossary of musical terms and an extensive listing of classical pieces used in films. The odd thing about the 36 extracts and complete pieces on the CDs is that they do not form an A-to-Z at all. Rather, they are arranged chronologically, from 1,000-year-old Gregorian chant to the opening movement of contemporary composer Philip Glass's Violin Concerto. Between these two points is the early music of Palestrina and Byrd; the Baroque glories of Vivaldi and Bach; the 19th-century Romantic masters, from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky; and such 20th-century greats as Rachmaninov and Stravinsky. Opera, song, and chamber music are barely represented, but only so much can fit into 151 minutes. Essentially a deluxe sampler of the vast Naxos catalogue, the discs offer a good introduction to some of the most famous and melodic music ever composed, while the book will be very useful to newcomers to the potentially confusing world of classical music. --Gary S. Dalkin


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Stravinsky: L'Oiseau De Feu, Le Sacre Du Printemps, Persephone

Stravinsky: L'Oiseau De Feu, Le Sacre Du Printemps, Persephone Lowest new price: $17.80
Lowest used price: $7.13

Here's a Stravinsky set to raise eyebrows. Where is Petrouchka, the standard coupling for Firebird and Rite in collections of the great early Stravinsky ballet scores? Instead, we get the too rarely heard Perséphone, and it's the highlight of the set. Premiered in 1934 to a text by André Gide, Perséphone is a retelling of the Greek fertility myth of the earth's winter death and spring renewal. The tale drew from Stravinsky some of his most delicate and beautiful music in the neoclassical style of the period, a sibling to the ballets Apollo and Orpheus and the cantata Oedipus Rex (it also includes string figures that recall those works).

Stephanie Cosserat, in the title role, is a youthfully persuasive narrator, very different from Vera Zorina's oracular reciter on Stravinsky's own recording. Stuart Neill's tenor is a big plus, and the orchestra and chorus play and sing with involvement. Michael Tilson Thomas brings out the cool tenderness of the score, and the recording, made at a live performance, is truthful. His Firebird is lushly dramatic, and the Rite's barbaric thrust is leavened by some soulful wind playing. Recorded competition in the two ballets is fierce (along with Gergiev's recent Firebird on Philips, there are classic versions by Ansermet, Dorati, Haitink, and others, including the composer) but Perséphone makes this set an attractive proposition. --Dan Davis

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Minnesota Orchestra Showcase

Minnesota Orchestra Showcase Lowest new price: $6.49
Lowest used price: $4.16
Brand: Reference Recordings



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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade / Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade / Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale Lowest new price: $29.99
Lowest used price: $3.98
Model: 2026137

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Stravinsky In America

Stravinsky In America Lowest used price: $3.52

A fascinating compilation of works, both major and minor, that illustrate Stravinsky's genius interacting with an America far from his Russian roots and Parisian inclinations. Included are pieces as dizzyingly varied as arrangements of our national anthem and "Happy Birthday" to the hermetic, atonal Huxley Variations. Michael Tilson Thomas excels in all of them, conveying the immense stature as well as the icy wit of the all-too-rarely heard Agon, the raucous humor of the Circus Polka, and the jewel-like precision of the Variations. Throughout, MTT captures Stravinsky's biting rhythms and imparts an austere beauty to works such as the Variations that seem, in other hands, simply austere. He benefits from an impressive sound that reveals every detail. One of the conductor's finest discs, and essential for anyone interested in 20th-century music. --Dan Davis

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The Most Frightening Music In The Universe [2 CD]

The Most Frightening Music In The Universe [2 CD] Lowest new price: $3.83
Lowest used price: $3.87

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